Happy New Year from “Un-Block The Music”! My good wishes are a month later than they should be, but after escaping sickness for the last three years, I got a stomach virus with the added bonus a couple of weeks later of CO-VID…Happy Holidays to me! Anyway…if you wondered what happened to the rest of my promised story about Eric William Morris…well it’s finally here.
The good news is…I can talk about how excited I am to see Eric in Michael R. Jackson’s upcoming follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize, Tony-winning show, A Strange Loop. The new show, White Girl In Danger begins its limited engagement March 14, 2023 and will officially open on April 10, 2023 at Second Stage’s Off-Broadway home, the Tony Kiser Theater.
If you read this blog and/or go to the theater, Eric’s talent will most definitely be familiar. He has been in several Broadway and off-Broadway productions including King Kong and Mamma Mia! And….he is a member of the Joe Iconis family portraying characters such as the Squip in the regional production of Be More Chill. However, Eric’s love for music did not start out in the theater.
In Eric’s New Jersey school, he didn’t catch on right away that the drama class was something everybody did. “Instead, I starting playing in bands when I was 13; deep diving into Nirvana and the entire grunge scene. From there I went down a Beatles rabbit hole,” Eric joked. He is still a proclaimed Beatles fanatic today.
“Okey Chenoweth was the drama teacher in the high school and everyone wanted to take his class,” Eric said. Okey’s support coupled with encouragement from Phyllis Sneyers, the chorus teacher, eventually gave Eric a solid background in singing, especially for theater.
Eric’s non-theater singing was on the back burner for a long time because he felt passionate about being a musical theater actor. “That was where I was getting my musical fix. While I loved interpreting other writers’ stuff, there was always that itch to put my own stuff out there.”
As most artists, during the pandemic Eric was hungry to create. For the first time in a while, he had the time to re-visit his passion for songwriting. “I took a couple of ZOOM songwriting classes which lead to production for songwriters,” he said.
When Eric started writing songs, he asked his friend, Ian Kaagey about home recording equipment. Ian, who is also a bass player, has produced all of Joe Iconis’ albums, so when he offered to produce Eric’s album, the answer was a quick “yes.” Eric got some bare bones home recording equipment and the two co-produced the album, 90 percent of which was recorded in Eric’s bedroom.
All eight songs on Do You Understand were written and recorded over five or six months. Perhaps “the song that means the most to me on the album is ‘Moderation.’ It was the first song that I wrote. It was such a struggle to find the chorus, but I didn’t give up on it. And every time I hear it, I think ‘I am so glad I stuck with it. The experience gave me the confidence to not give up on anything even if it doesn’t come easy. We have to learn that for every part of our lives,” Eric said.
“There is this silly idea that songs just come to you in 15 minutes. That they are sent from heaven and all you have to do is write it down. Maybe that has happened to me once in my entire life. I usually have an idea and a hook. Then, I have to think,’ how do I blow this idea up?”
Alyse Alan Louis, Eric’s wife (White Girl In Danger costar) was such an incredible support. “She is one of the most vocally talented people I know.” And, while he didn’t sit down to write songs for two people, the songs lent themselves to duets.” She sings on “I Keep Forgetting” and “Un-Block The Music’s” personal favorite, “Who Suffered More;” a song that really hit home during the pandemic. That song was written right before the 2020 election. “It felt like everybody was guilting everyone. I just thought, ‘I am trying my best,’” Eric said.
So, in the car or with your air pods in your ears, you can listen to Eric’s album on the way to the theater to see White Girl In Danger. The show will be directed by Tony Award nominee Lileana Blain-Cruz (The Skin of Our Teeth) and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly (A Strange Loop). Meg Zervoulis will serve as Music Director. AND…Lynne Shankel, who “Un-Block the Music” has written about several times, is the orchestrator!
The story goes like this. The citizens of the soap opera town Allwhite face high-stakes drama and intrigue all the days of their lives. But Keesha Gibbs (played by Latoya Edwards) and the other Blackgrounds have been relegated to backburner stories of slavery and police violence for all of theirs. Keesha is determined to step out of the Blackground and into the center of Allwhite’s juiciest stories
Eric said, “White Girl In Danger is my favorite kind of theater. It’s hilarious and over the top. Then, it completely punches you in the stomach by the end. It lives in the 1990s world of after school specials and soap operas and Lifetime movies of the week…the genres that Michael grew up with.”
Intrigued? “Un-Block The Music” sure is. I will meet you at the box office. Or you can get tickets at: https://cart.2st.com/events/2560?view=calendar&startdate=2023-03-01
Stories you may be interested in about Eric and Lynne Shankel, go to: